GWR King class 6023 King Edward II in steam at Didcot Railway Centre



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Cirl Bunting

Posted: March 21, 2019 in Birds, Devon, Natural History, UK

The Cirl Bunting is at the northernmost edge of its range in the UK and is found in the south-western counties. 10 years ago they were restricted to one or two isolated areas in Devon and it was feared that they may die out. The introduction of supplementary winter feeding programmes has boosted the number of birds that survive through the winter months and so are able to breed the next year and this has been responsible for a significant upturn in the population, such that they are now expanding into the neighbouring counties of Somerset and Cornwall.

Cirl Bunting

It is now estimated that there are around 900 breeding pairs in the UK.

Purple Sandpiper

Posted: March 20, 2019 in Birds, Devon, Natural History, UK

This medium-sized wading bird is a winter visitor to the UK. It is mostly found in the north of the country but although not common it has established winter roosts in the south at places such as Southsea Castle and Brixham Harbour.

A few pairs (possibly up to 3) nest in the far northern islands of Scotland but it is estimated that the wintering population in the UK is around 13000 birds.

They are usually found on rocky outcrops where they probe for winkles , crustaceans and spiders, although also eat the plants that grow on the rocks.

These photos were all taken on our recent trip to Devon near Brixham Harbour.

Berry Head Lighthouse

Posted: March 19, 2019 in Devon, History, UK
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Berry Head Lighthouse is one of the shortest in Great Britain, being only 5m tall. However, its position on the head means it is also one of the highest at 58m above sea level.

It was built in 1906 and automated in 1921. It was converted to run on electricity in 1994. It has a range of 35km (22 miles) and flashes every 15 seconds.

Berry Head also has a Coastguard watchpoint which is built within the remains of the old powder store building of the 18th-century fort.

Berry Head Fort

Posted: March 18, 2019 in Devon, History, UK
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By the end of the 18th Century, the threat of invasion from Napoleonic France was high and so the government took the decision to strengthen the defences of ports of the south coast of England.

The Entrance to Berry Head Fort

Berry Head which overlooks Brixham Harbour had been the site of an earlier battery, but work began in 1794 to upgrade and strengthen the defences.

The Guardhouse (1802) which now houses the Cafe and Vistors Centre

They are an impressive sight and the external walls remain intact except where subsequent quarrying has caused a collapse.

Exeter Cathedral (4)

Posted: March 15, 2019 in Devon, History, UK
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The Exeter Astronomical Clock (1484). The upper dial was added in 1760. The door to the works has a hole cut in it to allow access for the Bishop’s Cat to deter mice and rats from taking up residence in the clock.

Elephant Misericord (13th Century). Carved from a drawing of an elephant given as a gift to King Henry III (1207-1272)
Tomb of Bishop Walter Bronescombe (1257-1280) who initiated the rebuilding works of the current Cathedral.

The strange case of the Lady with two left feet. This is a sculpture on the tomb of John Atkinson Rudman, a merchant and Alderman of Exeter. The sculptor has strangely given the lady two left feet. Did he hope no-one would notice his mistake?

Exeter Cathedral (3)

Posted: March 14, 2019 in Devon, History, UK
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14th Century Minstrels Gallery

This unique 14th Century Minstrels Gallery has 14 Angels, 12 of whom are playing Musical instruments.

Exeter Cathedral (2)

Posted: March 13, 2019 in Devon, History, UK
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As I walk into the west door I am taken back by the glorious architecture

Exeter Cathedral (1)

Posted: March 12, 2019 in Devon, History, UK
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Construction of the Cathedral in Exeter began in 1194, but only small parts of this original building remain as a major rebuild was carried out between 1270 and 1350 to give the building we see today. As you approach the west door the wonder of the Cathedral rises up before you and welcomes you into its glorious interior.


The final day of our trip to South Devon and Keith and I went to Berry Head Nature Reserve, which is on a headland just outside Brixham. Our first destination is the quarry, where for 200 years since the 1800s Limestone was quarried from the cliff. Today it provides a cliff face and a secluded place for birds.

There are Fulmar nesting on the cliffs and out in the bay a large number of Northern Gannets and Guillemots. This looks a fantastic place for resting migrant birds, but only a few early migrants have arrived so far and apart from the resident species there is little to record.

Rock Pipit

Our next destination is the bird hide which faces opposite the cliffs where the Guillemots nest. At this time, it is estimated that there are around 1000 birds on the cliff ledges.

View over the bay towards the Guillemot colony
Guillemots on cliff ledges

Our final stop on Berry Head is the point where we look for passing sea birds but only see more Guillemots and Gannets.

We then began to descend from the headland vis the coast road, which passes through some woodland where we add some common woodland species to our day list, before coming to Breakwater Beach just outside Brixham Harbour. Just as we pass the outdoor swimming pool, I notice a small bird on the rocks, which turns out to be a Purple Sandpiper. We soon find another and spend some time watching and photographing this wading bird which spends most of its time probing in the gaps between rocks looking for food.

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper

Walking back through the harbour to the town, we see a Ruddy Turnstone on the quayside.

That brings us to 107 species in 3 and a bit days birdwatching, the best we have achieved on any of our trips. Not only an excellent number of different species but some fantastic views as well. Fircrest tops the list for me as it is a species I have tried to find many times and failed so it was great to finally catch up with one.

Northern Fulmar [sp] (Fulmarus glacialis)
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)
Black-legged Kittiwake [sp] (Rissa tridactyla)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Murre [sp] (Uria aalge)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Eurasian Bullfinch [sp] (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)